Tammy Swick

How long have you been volunteering with HA?
Since February of 2012.

What brought you to HA?
I’ve felt the pull to truly listen and be present for others for quite some time. It came to my awareness that a perfect fit might just be hospice care. I live in Lindenhurst IL. I investigated non-profit hospice organizations in my area. The Hospice Alliance story and the unique service of the Hospice House won me over. So, I make the drive twice a week and it is worth every mile.

What kinds of things have you done as a Hospice Volunteer?
I started out working 2 hours a week in the House along with occasional errands/deliveries, office work/data entry and marketing events. Now I primarily focus on two mornings a week in the House being there for patients and families, assisting staff, cooking, ordering groceries and ensuring a comfortable environment for families.

What do you enjoy about volunteering for HA?
Loving and serving others, mostly. I also enjoy working with the hospice house staff.

Do you have a favorite memory that you would like to share?
Oh so many! Most recently, dancing in the dining room with the CNA (Sham) and a patient (who "chair danced") in the dining room to "Queen".

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Oh gosh, listening to stories of peoples lives, their joys and memories. As well as patients sharing their singing voices, art work, family photos and all things that have been important to them. Often a patient will say something to me like, "Thank you so much for volunteering to do this type of work". My answer is always, "We’re all in this together".

Tammy-with-cereal

Al Poeppel

How long have you been volunteering with Hospice Alliance?
10 years with Hospice Alliance, 7 years prior with another Hospice.

What brought you to Hospice Alliance?
My mother was on hospice, and when I saw the good they did, I needed to give back.
I came to Hospice Alliance because after 7 years with a for-profit based Hospice, I saw they put profit before patients, so I wanted to change to a non-profit hospice. After changing, I saw that HA puts the patients and their families before everything.

What kinds of things have you done as a Hospice Volunteer?
I do weekly companionship visits for patients in facilities, I have sat vigil with patients in their last hours of life, I have provided respite visits for patients/families, I have volunteered with patients in the Hospice House, and I have helped with community outreach events.

What do you enjoy about volunteering for Hospice Alliance?
I enjoy being able to give comfort to my patients and assist their family members during this difficult time in their lives. I’ve received positive feedback from patient families, which shows to me that I’ve done my part.

Do you have a favorite memory of volunteering that you would like to share?
I have hundreds of memories – it’s hard to pick one. Every patient is special and leaves me with good memories. Being told thank you is special. After serving 225 patients, and knowing I’ve helped to make a difference - that’s what a hospice volunteer strives to do.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your volunteering experiences?
I am grateful to be able to serve the community. I am grateful to have had so many experiences which help me deal with many situations, including the final outcome. I enjoy working with such a great group of volunteers and staff. I am proud to be part of the Hospice Alliance family.

Al-Poeppel

Kathy Tenuta

How long have you been volunteering with Hospice Alliance?
13 years

What kinds of things have you done as a hospice volunteer?
I primarily work in the Hospice House doing patient care. I have worked Sunday mornings for years and fill in when available for other shifts. I have done home visits, nursing home visits, notaries, vigils, expo's, walked dogs, cleaned litter boxes, helped write a letter to a patient’s unborn grandchild, baked, and have done ambassador work, speaking to various organizations and prospective volunteers about what Hospice Alliance is all about and why they should choose us….whatever is needed.

What brought you to Hospice Alliance?
Like many other volunteers, I had a loved one who was a patient with Hospice Alliance. We had him in hospice at home and then eventually at the House. I witnessed firsthand the exemplary care given to not only him but to us, his family as well. The night nurse sat with me and her kindness has never been forgotten. I had to give back. Also, my dear friend, Helen Plous was the Volunteer Coordinator at the time. She encouraged me to join this amazing organization, and I proudly did so.

What do you enjoy about volunteering for Hospice Alliance?
Volunteering here is truly a gift that keeps on giving. It has renewed my reverence for both life and death. I am thankful for the opportunity to help others in their end-of-life journey. I especially enjoy my time with our patients and their families. They empower me. Listening to them share their memories, their experiences, and yes…even their fears is a huge reward. Witnessing their strength makes me want to do more. We are strangers…they open up their lives to us and to be able to bestow kindness in such a small way to them, well the honor is unmeasurable.

Do you have a favorite memory of volunteering you would like to share?
Oh my gosh…so, so many.
Being touched by so many lives…
Gaining the trust of homeless woman that was able to live her final weeks in dignity.
A wife reaching out to me to stay with her in her husband’s final hours.
The man who said I was trying to get him to forget about dying because I was wearing heals. 🙂
Sitting with a patient until she passed away – giving her family (who wasn’t able to be there) the solace of knowing she didn’t die alone.
Witnessing the wife that looked at least 70 yrs. old when her husband was brought into the House, and then after finally being able to rest, seeing her look her real age of 43.A patient that became a close friend asked me to help pick out her casket and flowers.
The Christmas cards I still get from a family who’s loved one I helped care for 8 years ago.
The families that are eternally grateful for all that we provide.
And finally, the memories I will never forget are the patients that are too weak to speak but squeeze your hand or mouth "thank you" when you do something that is so slight to you but the world to them.

Anything else you’d like to share about your volunteering experiences?
My journey in volunteering with Hospice Alliance has taught me that every day is a gift, even our final ones. I believe we bring sunshine to the darkest days. There can be beauty in our final days and hours. Instead of looking at death with fear and discomfort, Hospice Alliance believes in empowering our patients, their families and friends through compassion, care and above all dignity, nothing less. I try to do this by treating each and every one of our patients as if they were my own family. This is a passion and a purpose of mine. I have made so many wonderful "hospice" friends over the years. Some friendships are for a very short period of time, some longer, but they all leave their footprints in my heart. I am blessed and honored to be a volunteer with Hospice Alliance.

Photo of Kathy Tenuta

Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering, or would like further information.